It’s not every day that members get to lobby directly with political party leaders and hundreds of municipal officials for a cause that affects us all. That’s what members from Unifor’s health care sector were up to this past weekend at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
From May 31 to June 2, three health care workers, along with Unifor staff, spoke to city councilors, mayors, and other political figures to advocate for universal prescription drug coverage. FCM is the largest meeting of top municipal leaders from across Canada.
Angela Downey, Wee Wana Sprague, and Linda Skinner from Local 4606 highlighted the urgent need for municipal support for a pharmcare program given the vast number of Canadians who can’t afford medications, or who are without drug coverage of any kind. In fact, Canada remains the only developed country with a universal health care system that has no universal prescription drug coverage and that must change. Currently, there are about 8.4 million working Canadians that do not have any prescription drug coverage. Unifor also reminded FCM participants about the potential savings of $ 11 billion per year as just one of many reasons to support the implementation of a universal national pharmacare plan. Read Unifor’s pharmacare lobby document here.
“This is an important platform to rally for support of national pharmacare,” said Linda Skinner, Local 4606. “As a health care worker, I can see that universal prescription coverage would make medication accessible for so many Canadians, and in turn lead to a healthier population.”
Members and staff also spoke to Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader; Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party leader; and Lisa Raitt, Conservative Party deputy leader about why Canada needs national pharmacare. Lobbying efforts focused on the lack of consistent coverage Canadians face, the exceptionally high cost of drugs in Canada, and the monetary savings and efficiencies that would result from national pharmacare.
Also on hand to offer support were staff from the Membership Mobilization and Political Action department: Patty Barrera, Erin Harrison, and Terry Farrell.
“The government officials here can help build support for pharmacare at the municipal level,” said Patty Barrera, from Membership Mobilization and Political Action. “When this happens in community after community across the country, it will really make the case for the federal government to commit to universal pharmacare.”